When I was in the Netherlands a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to bake and shoot with Renee Kemps, a fellow blogger I'd met at the Saveur Blog Awards. At the awards, she and I hit it off right away, mostly by camping out at the food table during the ceremony and helping ourselves to copious amounts of Wilma Jean's fried chicken and tequila shots. We then realized that we would have an opportunity to continue our adventures — it just so happened that a few weeks after the awards, I would be flying to Amsterdam, where Renee currently lives, for my sister's wedding. We excitedly made plans to bake and shoot together.
The initial plan was to make a traditional Dutch baked good; Renee was insistent that we make stroopwafel cookies (that is, an incredibly thin waffle sandwich pressed together with thick caramel syrup). But, well, that just didn't happen. We ended up with these shortbread-like sandwich cookies instead, along with the best caramel syrup I've ever made:
You can read all about our (mis)adventures over on Renee's blog and why we ended up with the cookies that we did. Also, if you haven't checked out her blog already, hurry over! Renee shot all the photos for this post (those callused and veiny rock-climber hands in the photo are yours truly), and, as you can see, is a crazy talented photographer and the well deserved winner of this year's Saveur's Best Food Photography - Editor's Choice Award. Not only is her blog visually stunning, but her incredibly sweet and kind personality just radiates through all her posts!
So get your butt over there:
And for now, I'll leave you with this quickie recipe for orange, whiskey, and maple caramel sauce:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, loosely packed
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whiskey
- fresh zest from one medium-large orange
For the Orange, Whiskey, and Maple Caramel Sauce:
- Place 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/3 cup dark brown sugar into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium heat. In a separate, smaller saucepan, combine 3/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup maple syrup and place over medium-low heat.
- As the sugar heats, you will see it start to melt around the edges and turn golden in color, around 2 to 3 minutes. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, nudge the sugar slightly on one side. You will see liquid caramel slowly move out from underneath the granulated sugar. Very slowly start to move the sugar into the liquid caramel. Don't rush this! If the caramel starts to look grainy, you're incorporating the sugar too quickly. If the caramel starts to smoke or get very dark, remove the pan from heat until the smoking subsides and replace on lower heat.
- Meanwhile, keep your eye on the cream and maple syrup mixture. You want it to come to a boil just when the sugar reaches the liquid caramel stage, so adjust the timing accordingly by raising or lowering the heat underneath the mixture. If the mixture comes to a boil too early, don't be afraid to remove it from the heat.
- When the sugar has completely melted and is dark amber in color, remove from the heat and pour in the cream — it will bubble substantially. When the caramel has settled down, stir the mixture until smooth. Add 4 tablespoons cubed unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and stir until smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Whisk in 1 teaspoon whiskey and zest from one medium-large orange. Transfer the caramel into a heatproof jar or container and let cool completely — as it cools, it will thicken considerably. The caramel sauce can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.